February 28, 2013 … clear days, clear nights

Lunch is always a good excuse to visit Wellington.

As is often the case, I arrived in the city earlier than necessary, so rather than swell the already bloated coffers of Wellington’s rapacious parking services, I went out around Pt Jerningham and enjoyed the view across the harbour and up the valley to the great Southern wall of the Tararua Ranges. As you might deduce from the image, our astonishing spell of fine weather continues.

Hutt Valley and Tararuas from Evans Bay

Sun glitters on the water, and after a good month of sunshine, there is no snow on the Tararuas

Coming back round the point towards the city, I had a good view of the cruise liner, Radiance of the Seas (90,900 GT, 2,501 pax).   It has been a good season for Wellington.

Radiance of the Seas

Can you hear the cash registers ringing?

A little further round, I noticed my former office in what is now known as the Victoria Business School. The situation in the midst of government and industry is a huge asset to the university.

Victoria Business School at the heart of the country

The circular building is the beehive … the executive offices of government

But close at hand, or more accurately, at my feet, there were colonies of mussels on the rocks by the sea wall. Our old friends, the variable oystercatchers were there in some numbers to take advantage of nature’s bounty. They are obviously willing to eat shellfish of any variety. It was amusing to watch the molluscs clinging desperately to the bird’s bill, but all to no avail.

Variable Oystercatcher taking a leisurely lunch

They will eat any kind of shellfish

After a splendid rosy sunset, and with darkness fallen, I looked at my sunrise/moonrise app, and realised that the moon was about to appear into a cloudless night sky, so I lined up on where it ought to appear. It was later than predicted, but I suspect that is because the moonrise is predicted against a theoretical horizon, rather than the rim of the Eastern Hills.

Moonrise over the Eastern hills

No werewolves were heard.

 

February 27, 2013 … golden light in good company

I have fun at my camera club.

If it were not so, I wouldn’t be secretary/newsletter editor. Last night, with assistance from fellow club members, I found myself as the nominal leader of a club walkabout in the area of the Hutt River estuary.

Leaving home , I was distressed at the strength of the breeze, certain that it would destroy any chance of still water or good reflections. Apart from that, it was a lovely evening.  To my astonishment, on arriving at the river, it was for all practical purposes, flat calm. After a short briefing, we dispersed to various spots around the estuary and did our own thing . People were happily showing each other the images caught on the screens of their cameras, and it was a beautiful night for photography.

South-bound ducks viewed from the North

To my eye, the ducks are incidental. I love those reflected colours

Club nights are fixed in our calendar, and not aligned with the lunar cycle so we could not get the tide lined up.  From a bird point of view the conditions were not good. A full tide does not provide good conditions for the wading birds. On the other hand it provides surface area for reflections.

Simple reflections

I am grateful to the lady who wore a bright top. She was not even visible in the image but the colour of her top was.

With some reflections enhanced by the bright colours worn by some of my fellow members, I got my shots and moved on to the second stage which was the Marina at Seaview.  As I said before, the wind on the hills was quite fierce, but for some reason, it was near perfect at sea level.

Sunset through the gate

I did not see the flare through the viewfinder, though it was reasonably predictable.

In the West (as usual), the sun was setting, and there was an interesting arched gate on each pier of the marina which framed it nicely. The lens flare resulting from shooting directly into the sun added to the image.

Of course, if the sun was setting in the West, it had to be doing interesting things in the East. I liked the contrast between the white-painted storage tanks, and the last golden light on the yellow gorse blossoms on the hill behind.

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I enjoyed the session.

February 26, 2013 … a late run for last light

It’s a scandal.

I learned that approximately half of my images are below average.  Yesterday’s images make it appear even worse than that.

I have an excuse (don’t I always) in that I spent most of the day racing around trying to get a portfolio of prints despatched for consideration for the award of Photographic Society of New Zealand honours.  I was so flustered by this that as I was cutting the cardboard packing to protect the prints, I managed to somehow pick up and cut into a treasured table-cloth brought by Mary on a trip to Chile. Aaaagh!

Anyway, I got them sent, and by the miracle of modern courier services and their track and trace sites, I can tell that it was received this morning by the intended recipient.  Whew.

But that left little time at the end of the day. A hasty scramble around after dinner in the last light of day. I got a bit lazy in setting up and paid the price so today’s images are not what I hoped for.

A random stick planted in the mud is engulfed by the tide
This is wet and “sticky”

As the old joke asks, “What’s brown and sticky?” and the answer is “A stick” I don’t know why this appealed to me, but it did.

Grey ducks

Not sure what to make of the posture

Birdlife was limited, and the only birds close enough to make anything of, were ducks and gulls.

Red billed gulls washing in the somewhat polluted waters of the estuary

 

Lots of splashing and squawking

On the way back along the esplanade, I saw that there was some light remaining on the city. The cruise liner Costa Deliziosa was still in port, but too far in shadow for anything photographically useful. I settled for this view of Mt Victoria with the Oriental Bay fountain in play and the last light lingering on St Gerard’s monastery and the Freyberg pool down on the waterfront.

Oriental Bay from Petone

 

From Petone

It’s a lovely harbour, no matter what the light.

February 25, 2013 … going bush

Time for a bush walk. (Danger: excess of images today)

There are so many to choose from, but I liked Mary’s suggestion that we did the one from Kaitoke to the Twin Lakes at Te Marua, North of Upper Hutt. This is a 7.4 km walk which the signs suggest will take three hours, but which the truly fit manage in about two. Photographers might take four.

The return trip was more than we wanted to do yesterday, so we took two cars, parked one at the Southern end, and then drove together to the wonderful Kaitoke Regional Park.

There are many different walkways within that park, but our goal was “the Ridge Track”. It is well signposted, and the entrance is perhaps 100 metres from the main car park.  It’s like walking through a hedge. The very moment you turn off the road, you are in another world.

The bush two metres from the entrance to the path

Green magic

Beech forests are wonderful to walk through, though hard on the ankles because of the many roots across the path. The thick carpet of dead leaves has its own magic. I suppose that, unlike the manicured gardens in cities, part of the beauty of bush in the wild is the inclusion of the young, old, decaying and dead. Each stage adds something to the picture.

Dead but not gone

Well I liked it.

There are many other trees and shrubs, and a huge variety of mosses, lichens and ferns scattered among the beech trees.

Three different plants growing together as neigbours on one tree trunk

Getting very close

 

Such beauty comes at a cost. On this track, if you want to see more of it, you climb. Unrelenting steep tracks, and quite often  long flights of stairs, sometimes formed from sawn timber, or often just tree roots carry you steadily higher towards the ridge. The climb from either end gains 200 metres, and from there goes more steadily to the highest point 480 metres above the start point. This is not a track for the infirm or those with weak ankles.

Many roots and rocks threaten the ankles

The need to watch where you put your feet sometimes means you miss what’s around or above you.

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the beautiful day, the track was uncrowded, and we encountered no more than seven or eight other couples on the entire journey.   We paused along the way to eat our packed lunches, and to enjoy the total solitude. No other person came past while we ate our lunch, though some curious Tomtits investigated us from a distance.

Refreshed, we resumed our journey, pausing to admire the Rata blossoms (Metrosideros robusta) and the honey bees hovering around them.

The Northern Rata (with bee)

Feral honey bees are a rarity since the advent of colony collapse disorder (CCD)

A little further on, a short side track offered a view over the upper valley. From here there are magnificent views to the South and the over the Te Marua Lakes. This is a snare and a delusion. It may seem that the carpark is just at the bottom of the hill (and it is), but this lookout is somewhere near the middle of the walk, and it was almost another hour before we returned  to river level.

View over the upper valley ... Upper Hutt is beyond the next ridge

The Northern lake is drained and having a new impermeable membrane installed to prevent leakage. This is Wellington’s drinking water

 

The Southern part of the walk is more exposed and open than in the North, and the beech gives way to Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), gorse and blackberry. The track is quite wide, very steep, and comprised of treacherous loose rock. I tend to get pain in the knees in sustained downhill walking. This really did it to me.

Fern fronds in a committee meeting

There were many different ferns and other plants that I must identify

Ah well, despite my wobbly knees, we paused and used our empty lunch boxes and plastic bags to gather about a kilogram of fresh blackberries which I enjoyed in a  blackberry and apple pie later in the evening.

It was a wonderful day.

February 24, 2013 … following a grand tradition

Summer continues to surprise us.

It has been almost a month now since there was any serious rain, and in that time only a few days have been overcast and cold. This is how the summers were in my youth.  Of course it will end, probably quite soon. Out in the provinces, farmers enduring drought conditions are hurting.  Here in town, despite my sympathy for the farmers, I’m loving it.

Bright sun continued yesterday, though a very strong wind made things a bit different.

For me, this was always going to be a day about the harbour, Te Whanganui-a-Tara or Port Nicholson. For a start, the Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth was in port. For a sea-lover such as myself, there is a certain history, or even magic associated with the Cunard name. Of course, it is no longer the wholly British company it once was, being now owned by the multinational Carnival Corporation. The clearest evidence of the change is on the transom of this mighty vessel … her port of registry is Hamilton, Bermuda. In earlier times, it would have been unthinkable for a Cunarder to be registered anywhere but Southampton.

Queen Elizabeth berthed in Wellington

The shimmery effect is caused by salt spray across the six or so kilometres of wind-blown waters. It’s getting harder to distinguish marine architecture from that of the CBD behind her. The building just ahead of her with the red rim around the top is Victoria University’s School of Business

And though I speak of her as a mighty vessel, in the last week alone there have been at least two even larger ships in port. Her newer sister Queen Mary 2 is half as big again.  Nevertheless she retains the glamour and tradition of a great ship, and carries a famous name.

Despite the fact that yesterday was Centreport’s annual open day, I didn’t go closer, but saw her from up on the hills at Wadestown and across the harbour from Petone.  Perhaps it’s the traditional black-hulled Cunard colour scheme, but she has a presence.

Centreport's tug "Tiaki" performing for the passengers

The tugs brought the public out to visit the Queen Elizabeth, and on the way, demonstrated their ability to spin on the spot.

As I said, it was open day in the port yesterday, and people were able to take rides on the tugs Toia and Tiaki. Toia is a Voith Schneider tug with the strange vertically rotating propellers, while Tiaki (made in Vietnam) has fully steerable shrouded propellers. Either vessel is capable of movement in any direction and exerting a bollard pull in the order of 69 Tonnes.  The skippers were clearly enjoying showing off to the public.

Kite surfing at the Eastern end of Petone Beach

This is near the river mouth so the silt from the valley discolours the water

Later in the afternoon, the wind really got up and there was a severe chop on the water. The people who loved this most were the ones on sailboards or kite surfers.

Sailboarder at speed

This particular rider was very experienced and he rocketed past at great speed and occasionally jumped. He did not fall off at any stage while I watched. In the background are the cement silos near the Interisland ferry terminal

Brown river sediment mixed with blue-green sea, and it was a spectacular if chilly sight.

Who knows what today will bring?

February 23, 2013 … aimless wandering

Wandering in hope with no plan has its limits.

As I have said before, I often set out in the car, hoping that I will eventually encounter something that might make a picture. Sometimes I take a picture that I probably should have resisted, or found a better way of seeing. Then it’s a matter of attempting to apply some gloss to the merely mediocre. It is not a great recipe for high achievement, and certainly no evidence that I have been “really seeing”.

Pauatahanui Inlet is often fruitful as a source of images, though less so when the wind is blowing. Despite the steady breeze, I went there anyway. I should have learned from prior experience. There were few birds on the lagoons, and those that were there were not very exciting. I tried the Whitby side, and again, not much was visible .

There are few places on that road to stop safely, so when I encountered one I pulled in and got out to look. A trio of black swans, and a few spur-wing plovers were wandering about, but not much else. Oh wait! That is a different oystercatcher over there.  I swear, I am convinced that birds can detect the emissions of the autofocus system on the camera. The moment my camera was lined up, it was off. Happily the lens was already lined up, though I was slow to react. Even at 1/2000 shutter speed, this image contains some blur.  IMG_6787

This is the Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) as distinct from the locally more common (and usually black) Variable Oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor).

Disappointed, I turned for home, but took a side road, just to see where it went. As with many of these side roads, there was a mixture of old farms and serious money.  The kind of “happenstance” I hoped for turned up in two ways.

First, there was an old and very derelict front-end loader which was slowly being absorbed by the earth in the spot where it seems to have died.  IMG_2049

As I was manoeuvring to find the best angle, I was obstructed by a large piece of gorse crowned with a spider nest. I was suddenly mindful of the need to see what was near me. I hope you will agree that this is a very sharp plant.

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And with that lesson in mind I looked over my shoulder, and loved the old tree on the farm across the road. Just one of its branches seems t be still alive, but I love its shape and presence. IMG_2059

 

It has been said before you can call me anything but not “late-for-dinner”. So it was a hasty dash back towards home. As I arrived at the lights at the bottom of the Hayward Hill, I became aware of a dull rumble which transformed into the heavy rumble of a large truck beside me. I am unsure what badge was on the front of the truck, though its mud flaps proclaimed it to be powered by “Cat”. This was not long out of the showroom, but the chromed hubs on the truck and four-axled trailer suggested its driver was very proud of his mount.IMG_2063

Enough for today.

February 22, 2013 … view of the common foot soldier

It was a pedestrian day.

Not because things happened slowly (they did), but because my car was in the panel shop. No I didn’t hit anything, but some panel attachment clips had failed and they needed to be fixed. I got the guys in the shop to drop me off for my dental appointment , and then walked the three kilometres home from there.  Since I rarely go anywhere without at least one camera, I kept my eye open for anything that would make a picture.

Of course, this is part of my continuing voyage of discovery into what it is to “really see”. And for the sake of clarity, I don’t pretend that any of today’s images are more than exploratory steps in that direction.

Norfolk pine in the city

Though the Norfolk pine is itself very geometrical, the rigid architecture behind it makes it look soft.

My first shot is taken along Broomfield Terrace where the green organic shape of a Norfolk Pine contrasts with the rectangular grey concrete of the Westfield Queensgate carpark, and the rigidly rectangular metal cladding of the movie theatre complex on the top floor.

Westfield Queensgate carpark

A low angle on an empty park

It’s a paradox that people walking for exercise still seek shortcuts. I went diagonally through the almost empty carpark (it was about 8:45 am, and the centre opens at 9:00 am) and wondered if I could make an image. It’s not one that I would like on my wall, but I found the patterns, textures and contrasts interesting.

A pampas grass, perhaps?

Delicate seed head

Emerging on Queens Drive, I made my way over to the walkway along the stop bank (US = levee). Our string of sunny days was still in full force yesterday, and the plant life was interesting. I am not sure exactly what kind of grass this is, but the delicacy of it appealed to me.

Over the river by way of the Ewen bridge, I began the steady trudge up Normandale Road, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, the smell of the bush, and even the taste of fresh blackberries. Self-sown Buddleia (Buddleja davidii)is classified as a pest plant, but like so many others, it has a sly way of insinuating itself into your affections.

Wild buddleia

Pest? Who me?

My story takes a jump now to the late afternoon when I had a call from the panel shop to say my car was ready. On the downhill walk (much easier), the differing shades in the hills across the valley made a pleasant view.

View across the valley

From Normandale Rd, looking towards Wingate near Naenae

The weather is grey, cool and windy. Something entirely new in recent memory.

February 21, 2013 …sun-flecked river bank

Unless you are a new reader, you will have noticed that I like the high places.

They offer splendid views and confer magnificence on scenes that are quite ordinary at street level. My first shot yesterday was from the North and East of Newlands, looking down on the Petone foreshore.

Petone and the harbour from Newlands

For some reason, these magnificent views don’t command a premium in the real estate world.

This shot would work better at a different time of day and with different water conditions, but since I am doing (at least) a photo a day, I work with what I have when I am there.

In the afternoon, I went over the Wainuiomata hill again and up the length of Moore’s Valley. Parts of it are quite pretty, but sadly the power and telephone wires spoiled most of the best views. I am sure there are views to be had there, and I shall try again another day.

Back in Wainuiomata village, near Homedale, there is a pretty stream that passes under the road, and the bright gleam of sunlight on green elm leaves got my attention.

Poole Crescent Reserve, Wainuiomata

A study in green and brown

I parked, and walked down beside the river. The walkway leads into a pleasant park called Poole Crescent Reserve. As you might expect for a stream that runs through native bush, the water is tanned a dark translucent brown. IMG_2018Ducks abound, and the banks are somewhat overgrown with blackberries. The crop of berries is ripening nicely. I needed to get back to other matters so I came back up the path, enjoying the light and shade as I walked.Back-lit leaves beside the stream

A more confined range tomorrow as my car is being repaired. Walking distance shots only.

February 20, 2013 … back down to sea level (posted a day late)

Consistency is much over-rated.

I was happy with yesterday’s images, but less so today.  Consistently good would be nice, but how awful would it be to be consistently bad. Variations of opportunity and of capability on a day by day basis make life interesting. Or is that just a weak rationalisation for a fairly average photographic day?

Mary and I bought Sushi and enjoyed it on the beach at Eastbourne. There was a fairly steady Southerly breeze to cool the day, and to put a bit of a chop on the water.

Diamond Princess and Aurora berthed in Wellington

It is the height of the cruise season. There seems to be a cruise ship every other day, and sometimes two of them.

Nevertheless, it was a blue day, with clear views across the harbour to the two big ships moored at the Aotea Quay cruise terminal. Between them, the Diamond Princess and the Aurora injected over four thousand passengers into downtown Wellington yesterday. A friend commented that it was hard to cross the road near the waterfront “because of all the boat people”.

Dune grasses nodding vigorously in the wind

These things look soft and pretty, but in reality they leave vicious little barbed seeds which penetrate your clothes

We had found a sheltered spot, so most of the time we were untroubled by the wind, though the seed heads on the grasses were lashing about under the steady pressure.

After lunch, we wandered along the beach a while.  Out on the horizon, the interisland ferry Aratere  crossed the harbour entrance and disappeared. It took a while, but we eventually figured out that the turning point to line up with the shipping lanes was much further East than I thought. After a few minutes, she stuck her nose out from behind the Eastern hills and crossed back again.

IMG_6754Through the viewfinder, with the foreshortening effect of a big lens, there was an alarming proximity of this quite large vessel to the jagged saw-toothed rocks off Breaker Bay.

As always the Kaikoura ranges add dignity to an ordinary scene.

February 19, 2013 … a perfect end to a golden day

This is a rare complaint.

I got so many images yesterday that I like, that I had real trouble selecting which to show you. Though I have several other options (it was a wonderful photographic day), I chose landscapes as my focus (pun intended) for this edition.

How does this relate to my ongoing “seeing” question? I don’t have a complete answer to that question, but the things I saw yesterday were so magnificent that I had to celebrate them by attempting to capture their essence, and sharing it with you.

Despite a cool and slightly grey start, by noon, the day became one of crystal clarity and bright sun. In the late afternoon, I took a drive through Wainuiomata down to the South coast. The valley offers some lovely viewpoints and I got some quite pleasant pastoral views, and even the sheep browsing in paddocks of golden grass were nicely rim-lit. On the way back over the hill to prepare dinner, I paused at the lookout on the Wainuiomata hill.

Afternoon view of Wellington Harbour from Wainuiomata Hill lookout

Our beautiful capital city all dressed up to be seen at her best.

Our harbour was dressed in her finest blue, and had chosen green accessories, all set off by the glittering bright summer sun. That, I thought, would probably be my picture of the day.

I arrived home just as Mary got in from work, but I had prepared the meal before I set out so all was well. After dinner Mary looked out the window at th colours in the sky and on the hills and said “you should be out there.”  Her price is far above rubies!*

So, leaving my dearly beloved to cope with the dishes, I went out with my cameras once more. Over the hill again I paused at the lookout, and constructed a panorama (stitched from 27 images). That one will supersede the earlier shot, I thought. I made three panoramas at three different times, and though I think they worked quite well, panoramas don’t lend themselves to web pages.

But there was still light, so onwards to the South. This was disappointing because I left my run about half an hour too late to get the last light on the valley floor. I kept going until I reached the car park by the beach at the Wainuiomata river mouth. You can see the very low angle of the remaining light.

Across the Cook Strait towards the Kaikoura Ranges

The last light of a beautiful day gives a soft view of the distant mountains and to the right, Baring Head.

A lovely soft pink glow across the strait painted the Kaikoura ranges like an artistic backdrop to a theatrical set. The masts on Baring Head were catching the sun directly (the lighthouse itself is just beyond the ridge from this point of view).

On the way back, the valley was now in shadow, but the river was glassy calm and offered some nice reflection shots. Then I came again to the lookout at the top of the hill road. Clearly this was a very special evening.  The sun had just gone below the horizon, but the sky was a glorious rosy gold, turning quickly towards red. Here in Wellington, we are far enough North that our twilight is quite short, so I had to set up quickly.

Petone and Lower Hutt from Wainuiomata lookout

I love the combination of early evening shadow and the city lights of evening.

I made another panorama, but I think the simple single shots are more powerful. First, Lower Hutt and the Petone foreshore looked like a jeweller’s store getting ready for Christmas sales.

Wellington city and harbour from Wainuiomata Lookout

Compare this image with the daylight shot from the same place above

Swinging towards Wellington City, the great body of the harbour reflected the wonderful colours of the sky.

Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku from Wainuiomata Hill

In the foreground are the Eastern Hills. Across the harbour, the first layer is the Miramar/Seatoun peninsula. The next layer back, with all the lights is along the ridge from Brooklyn. Behind that the ridge rises from the coast to Hawkins Hill. Beyond the sea mis in the far background, the Inland and Seaward Kaikoura Ranges contrast with the golden aftermath of sunset.

And then to the South West, 135 km away, the high peaks of the Kaikoura ranges dominate the darkening sky. Tapuae-o-Uenuku is the crowning jewel at 2,885 metres. I think this is my favourite shot of the day.

I hope you agree that it was a great day.

*Proverbs 31:10